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UK motor insurer Admiral has said the “cycle is turning” in the sector as surging prices catch up with a sharp rise in the cost of repairing cars, signalling there may be some relief for consumers next year.
“The market increased price quite substantially in the first half of the year, a bit over 20 per cent, and particularly in the second quarter, the price increase actually accelerated,” Admiral chief executive Milena Mondini de Focatiis told the Financial Times.
Price increases were expected to continue in the second half, but the rises in the insurer’s costs should “ease a bit”, she added. The group anticipates inflation will return to normal levels as soon as next year, with the expectation that further price increases “will just match that”.
The cost of second-hand cars was stabilising and repair costs, though elevated, were not rising as fast as they had been, Mondini de Focatiis said.
“We are very aware there is lots of pressure on our customers,” she said, acknowledging that “insurance prices going up definitely doesn’t help” with the cost of living squeeze, and stressing the company’s services for vulnerable customers.
Admiral, one of the country’s largest motor insurers, said on Wednesday that a series of big price rises had helped revenues climb by a fifth to £2.2bn. Its underwriting margins weakened slightly, though, in what it said remained a “challenging” market.
The group’s shares were up 5 per cent by late morning trading in London, and rival Direct Line also benefited, with its shares similarly rising 5 per cent.
Consumer groups and politicians have raised concerns about sharp rises in car insurance prices, with senior executives having to justify them before MPs in parliament. Some analysts forecast rates will continue to rise until 2025.
Separately, insurer Aviva said “strong rate increases” in general insurance had helped it manage higher costs. In its first-half results on Wednesday, the group said it expected to exceed its medium-term targets for cash generation. The group said it remained “focused on pricing appropriately for the ongoing inflationary environment”.
When it came to motor and home insurance for individual customers, chief executive Amanda Blanc told the Financial Times it was “not in our interest to be pushing for rating that we don’t actually need”.
The company was not achieving “excess profit” here, and prices still need to catch up with inflation, she added. But the company also predicts a slowing in inflation that should feed through to less price pressure. “You’ve got to see that that trajectory is going to get better.”
Aviva’s private health sales continued to advance at a time of record waiting lists for public sector health services, with sales up more than a half compared with the previous period.
Overall, the group posted £715mn in first-half operating profit, up 8 per cent on the previous year’s first half and ahead of consensus analyst expectations.
Its solvency coverage ratio — the amount of capital it holds as a percentage of the regulatory minimum — was 202 per cent, a few percentage points higher than the average forecast. It increased its interim dividend from 10.3p to 11.1p, broadly in line with expectations.
Its shares were up more than 2 per cent by late morning in London.